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3 Winter Road Trips That Will Warm You Up

Winter Road Trip
Allianz - Winter Road Trip

There's something about road trips that makes every mile of them memorable.

Maybe it's the strategic way you navigate from one fuel stop to another, the thrill of not knowing exactly how the day will unfold, or perhaps it’s the constant intake of snacks that is only justifiable when you’re miles from home and spending hours per day on the road. Spring and summer tend to tempt most road trippers, but road trips are still on the table in the winter. And in many ways, winter road trips can pack in a whole lot more adventure.

Winter weather is all too often associated with negative things such as frozen pipes, extra layers, and shorter days. But a winter road trip can help you experience the cold in a new way — we’re talking frosted mountain ranges, ice-skating, and embracing the quiet of the season.

Here’s a look at itineraries to consider for your next winter road trip:

Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Asheville, North Carolina

Allianz - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. A winter road trip there means that you can take in the Smoky Mountains with minimal crowds, which tend to flock there in the warmer months.

There are two primary ways to travel between the cities and they both have their merits. The scenic route features the Blue Ridge Parkway and the shorter path shows off the nearly 5,000-ft tall Mount Cammerer.1

Ober Gatlinburg is a must-visit on the Tennessee side of this trip. Start with an aerial tramway from Downtown Gatlinburg to the mountain, giving you a break from driving and offering incredible views of the Smoky Mountains. Ober is packed with winter activities for people of all ages, including ice-skating, skiing, tubing, and more. While conditions on the slopes can vary with the weather, Ober is consistently open for snow tubing from Thanksgiving through Easter for some guaranteed fun.

Asheville is well-known for its hip dining and music scene, but if you want to infuse your road trip with some holiday spirit, the Biltmore Estate should be on your list. As the largest private residence in the country, it features equally over-the-top holiday decorations that are on display from November through the first week in January.3

Stowe, Vermont to Rochester, Vermont

Allianz - View from Stowe, Vermont
View from Stowe, Vermont

When small towns in New England are blanketed by snow, they look like they belong on a holiday postcard. Start your trip in Stowe, Vermont which neighbors the state’s highest mountain peak. The ski town embraces the cold stuff in more ways than one — offering visitors sleigh rides, dog sledding, snowmobile rides, and ice fishing.4

When you’re ready to keep exploring, there’s just 50 miles of rural driving along Route 100 to get to Rochester, Vermont. You’ll meander past some of Vermont’s loveliest towns, many of which are worth a visit on their own. Consider the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury for a treat as cold as the weather. Then burn off the ice cream calories with a stop for a short hike to Moss Glen Falls, which will reward you with waterfall views. Finish up your tour of snowy Vermont in Rochester, a tiny town surrounded by Green Mountain National Forest and made up of just over 1,000 residents. Downtown Rochester has small shops and restaurants that allow you to experience small town charm first hand.

Arches National Park, Utah

Allianz - Arches National Park in Winter
Arches National Park in Winter

So far, we’ve offered you winter road trips that are filled with traditional scenery - but a road trip to Arches National Park is far from typical. Most of the year, Arches has desert scenery with the temperatures to match. But in winter, temperatures and visitor numbers drop making it an ideal time to admire the rock formations at a slower pace. The 36-mile Arches Scenic Drive takes you past some of the park’s most breathtaking views, including Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock.5, 6

Be sure to bundle up and pack your hiking shoes. Optimal views are sometimes a short walk from your parked car and the drive can take up the better part of a day with frequent stops. Snow isn’t a guarantee on this road trip, but if you’re lucky enough to witness a dusting, it’ll be something akin to powdered sugar on a gingerbread house.

Road Trip Ready

If these road trips have you reaching for your car keys and packing a bag, keep in mind that winter road trips have a slightly different set of requirements than road trips at other times of the year. For example, if your car doesn’t have four-wheel drive, you might want to rent a car more equipped for driving in the mountains or navigating any potential snow (making rental car insurance a must-have.) It’s also a good idea to have your local mechanic give your car a once-over to make sure it’s up for a road trip. (Also, be sure to pack a winter weather emergency car kit; we have your shopping list right here).

Old Man Winter is unpredictable, and if you’re already mentally planning your road trip, consider adding Allianz Global Assistance’s OneTrip Basic plan into the mix. Then if your trip is delayed or cancelled due to a covered reason, you can be reimbursed for pre-paid, nonrefundable road trip costs, such as lodging or ski passes.

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